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Why They Will Win

Capitals will ride Ovechkin, Carlson to Cup victory

Explosive offense of forward, breakout season by defenseman will bring first NHL title to Washington

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals will win the Stanley Cup this season because they're due.

No team has experienced more disappointment in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past 20 years than the Capitals. They last advanced past the second round in 1998 when they made their lone Stanley Cup Final appearance - and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

They've won the Presidents' Trophy three times (2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17) and won a total of two playoff series in those seasons. They held a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers in the 2016 Eastern Conference Second Round and lost Games 5 and 7 in overtime. That was one of four times they've lost a Game 7 in the second round since 2008-09.

 

[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

It's time their fortunes change. Luckily they have forward Alex Ovechkin and defenseman John Carlson.

Ovechkin scored more than 40 goals this season for the ninth time in his NHL career, including his 600th. Carlson set career highs in goals, assists and points and finished among the leaders in points at his position.

Video: NSH@WSH: Ovechkin nets blistering PPG from his office

The Capitals have already exceeded expectations. After losing a host of key players last summer (defensemen Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt, and forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson to name a few), some thought it would be a challenge for them to qualify for the playoffs. Not only did they qualify, but they finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division for the third consecutive season. 

Despite that, the Capitals aren't Stanley Cup favorites. They're not even Eastern Conference favorites. 

That distinction will go to the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning or their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who eliminated the Capitals in the playoffs on their way to winning the Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals' Stanley Cup window looked like it was closed after they lost to the Penguins in seven games in the Eastern Conference Second Round last season. But the San Jose Sharks were in a similar position two seasons ago after repeated playoff disappointments and reached the Stanley Cup Final.

This season, it will be the Capitals' turn to go on an unexpected playoff run and win it all.

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